McNally Smith College of Music

Discover your life in music

Earn Your Degree in Brass and Woodwind Performance
1, 2 and 4 year programs available

Brass and Woodwind Performance

The Brass and Woodwind Performance program is designed to develop your instrumental technique and stylistic vocabulary so you can excel in a variety of musical contexts, both on stage and in the studio. You’ll gain essential music skills through a combination of ensemble performance and individualized instruction that respects tradition and encourages innovation. Whether you’re into jazz, classical, funk, fusion, rock or hip-hop, you’ll have the support of experienced faculty to help you master the music you’re most passionate about.

We offer performance degrees for the following wind instruments:

  • Clarinet
  • Flute
  • Saxophone
  • Trombone
  • Trumpet

By building a solid foundation in music theory, sight reading, aural skills and improvisation and soloing techniques, you’ll graduate prepared to succeed in a variety of career paths as a professional musician.

Ready For The Real World

As a Brass and Woodwind Performance major you’ll receive a hands-on education in a real world environment that directly mirrors the music industry. You’ll gain stage experience through the many playing opportunities on campus and around the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area. By joining any of the Premier ensembles, such as the X-Tet or Fusion ensemble, you’ll also have the opportunity to tour nationally and internationally. You’ll get to record in state-of-the-art studios with fellow performance majors. You’ll learn how to compose and arrange your own music, how to book your own shows, and how to market and promote yourself as a player and artist. And through our job board, you can find gigs with original bands and commercial groups.

You’ll get a head start on your music career by building your professional network while you’re still in school. With access to guest artists, internships and the thriving Twin Cities music and arts scene, you’ll be connected to the industry before you graduate.

Teaching For Tomorrow

To succeed as a professional musician, you need a well-rounded education that prepares you for the dynamic future of the music business. That’s why our Brass and Woodwind Performance degree program focuses on developing your creativity and musicianship while giving you the necessary technology skills to adapt and compete in the industry. You’ll also graduate equipped with the entrepreneurial concepts and business savvy you’ll need to accomplish your goals and establish your career.

With a comprehensive education that blends artistry, technology and entrepreneurship, you’ll be ready to make and sustain a life in music.

Your Career Path

Graduates of the Brass and Woodwinds Performance program are prepared for a variety of career options, including:

  • Professional Musician
  • Touring Musician
  • Session Player
  • Music Director
  • Composer
  • Music Teacher
  • Private Lesson Studio

 Studios & Facilities

Our campus features 3 performance venues, 6 technology labs, and 11 recording studios where students learn to record, edit and mix music and audio.

Student Life

There’s a lot to explore outside of class, including student organizations, free concerts, music ensembles, and the diverse music and art scene of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The Auditorium hosts student recitals, guest artist concerts and music industry seminars year round. MIDI Lab. Students learn to write and produce music using hardware and software, including Logic Pro. Pro Tools Lab. Students learn editing, mixing and production techniques using the latest software. One of the multipurpose classrooms used for rehearsing bands, teaching music theory and songwriting. The Sound Bite Café features an intimate performance setting for small ensembles, guest artists and workshops. The 48-input SSL Duality console in Studio 1, with a view into the main performance area. Studio 1. 48-input SSL Duality hybrid analog-digital console; Barefoot MicroMain 27 monitors. Studio 4 features a Digidesign ICON D-Command Work surface and 5.1 surround mixing system. Studio 5. Trident 80B analog console; Otari MTR-90 24-track analog recorder; Pro Tools HD2 system. Studio 10 main performance area. Studio 10 features three racks of outboard mic preamplifiers, compressors, equalizers, and limiters.
Many artists have launched their careers at First Avenue, Minnesota’s quintessential music venue. The Theater Ensemble performs rock musical RENT at the History Theatre located on campus. At The Sessions master class, industry pros like Dom Famularo help artists sharpen their business skills. EDM artist/producer Francis Preve demonstrates remix techniques using Ableton Live during a master class. The X-Tet Ensemble studies traditional cajón technique in Lima, Peru during their South American tour. Concertgoers get the full Flaming Lips experience at River’s Edge Music Festival, downtown St. Paul. The NOLA Ensemble performs authentic New Orleans-style jazz at an Open House event. The Contemporary Vocal Ensemble performs onstage in McNally Smith’s Auditorium. Music Business students plan, promote and execute a SXSW day party in Austin, TX. Students pause for a photo-op while guiding campus tours at Open House. Taking a break during the McNally Smith kickball tournament at nearby Harriet Island, St. Paul.

FacultyView All Faculty >>

Pete Whitman

Pete Whitman has spent over 25 years teaching and playing professionally as a saxophonist, flutist, and clarinetist. He has toured the U.S., Japan and Brazil with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and has also performed with such distinguished ensembles and musicians as the Minnesota Orchestra, Jack McDuff, Curtis Fuller, the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Jazz MN Big Band, JAZZAX saxophone quartet, Andres Prado and Laura Caviani. Whitman has also recorded extensively as a sideman and has released a trio of solo albums. His latest, Where’s When (Artegra) features the X-Tet, a ten-piece ensemble led by Whitman, and received a four star rating by DownBeat magazine.

Scott Agster

Dr. Scott Agster has performed all over the world with such distinguished groups as The UNT One O’Clock Lab Band, The Dallas Jazz Orchestra, Salsa del Soul, the Matt Sawyer Orchestra, The Glenn Miler Orchestra, and The Skunkfoot Seven. He has had the opportunity to work and perform with many acclaimed artists including Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Dave Douglas, Phil Woods, Nicholas Payton, Stefan Karlsson, Slide Hampton, and Paul McKee. Dr. Agster has recorded 21 albums including The Music of Frank Sinatra (Bella Galla Big Band), Traditionally Speaking (Jack Brass Band), Taking Shape (Snowblind) and Run With It! (G8).

Dr. Agster was also a founding member and arranger for the Vector Trombone Quartet, which was a finalist in the International Trombone Association Quartet Competition in Helsinki, Finland in 2003. He is currently active as a clinician on low brass techniques and improvisation. His recent research to determine modern trends in jazz curricula around the United States has been highlighted during the 2007 IAJE conference in New York.


We offer 1, 2 and 4-year degrees in Bass Performance, giving you options for a degree that fits with your plans and budget.

$12,870 per semester for full-time attendance (13-17 credits)

  • Bachelor’s degree: 120 credits
  • Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree: 60 credits
  • Diploma: 45 credits

$990 per credit for part-time attendance More info >>

Financial Aid

On average, more than $1 million in College-funded aid is awarded annually in the form of merit-based scholarships and need-based grants. More than 85% of our students receive financial assistance to help cover their educational costs.

Click here to learn about the many resources available to help pay for college.

Gainful Employment Statistics


McNally Smith College of Music is institutionally and programmatically accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and is registered with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. More info >>

Applied Theory I

Students examine how essential elements of music theory (melody, rhythm, scales, form, improvisation) are represented in contemporary music and directly apply classroom lessons on the bass, gaining deeper understanding of a variety of popular styles and standard works.

Contemporary Literature

Students across the Music Performance program form ensembles to study, rehearse and perform contemporary music. The unique roles of the various members of an ensemble are examined and experienced through active participation. Students learn to read charts, take solos and play songs by ear. Emphasis is placed on hands-on execution of the diverse musical styles practiced in the industry today.

Modern Jazz Style and Analysis

Through the process of transcription, imitation and analysis, students study a number of recorded performances by musical icons that had a large impact on American Popular Music and Jazz from 1958 to the present, including Miles Davis John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and more.